Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Value in Physical Training: 5 Reasons Why I Exercise

January has come and gone. This means by now those who have made New Year’s resolutions to exercise, eat better, and lead a healthier lifestyle are seeing the strength of their resolve. According to one statistic, 38% of resolutions made are weight related, but only 8% are successful in keeping their newfound commitment.

Many in our culture make these resolutions because they worship the idol of physical appearance. While this is sinful and ultimately unsatisfying, Christians shouldn't swing to the other side of the pendulum, rejecting exercise altogether. Even the Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, recognized that there is some usefulness in exercising.
“...train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way...” -1 Timothy 4:7-8
Below, I want to list and describe my reasons for exercising consistently and eating healthy. I hope you find these motivations of “some value”.

I exercise because it is spiritually beneficial.
We often forget there is a close connection between the physical and spiritual realms and that they affect one another. Peter makes this clear when exhorting his audience to refrain from engaging in sexually immoral behavior. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11). Notice how what one does with one’s body also affects one’s soul.

While this is true in regards to sinful practices it also applies to our physical health. Taking care of one’s body through proper diet, exercise, and rest is extremely beneficial not only for the body, but also for the soul.* In other words, I believe that exercising can help us in the process of sanctification.

I exercise for longevity in life and ministry.
Those who exercise typically live longer than those who do not. Additionally, their quality of life is much better and they have fewer illnesses. Moreover, studies have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells, improve mental performance, and sharpen one's memory. It also prevents degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for learning. Needless to say, there are many physical and cognitive benefits to exercising regularly. 

As a pastor, my vocation is sedentary. Most of my time is spent sitting in a chair reading, writing, and studying. So ultimately, exercising can help me to be more productive and fruitful in my ministry. Exercise, proper diet and rest will give me the physical and mental energies needed to effectively fulfill all my duties as a pastor-teacher.

In addition to ministry, exercising is beneficial for my family life. I have two energetic children (and one on the way!) that demand high amounts of my energy. In order to keep up with them I need to stay active. Plus, I want to be alive to see them graduate, get married, and have grandchildren, whom I can play with. This won't happen if I neglect to exercise. 

I exercise to fight off laziness.
When I pound the pavement early in the morning or hit the gym at the end of a long day I am practicing self-discipline. Self-discipline helps me to mortify the sin of laziness. It trains me to not simply go with the ebb of life, but to do what needs to be done, even if the task is less than pleasant. This is how John Calvin stated it, “Let us treat the body so as to make a slave of it, that it may not, by its wantonness, keep us back from the duties of piety.”

(I am not implying that overweight people are lazy or that skinny people are well disicplined. I am just pointing out that one way I fight against laziness is through physical exercise.)

I exercise because I feel better physically.
There are seasons in my life when I am unable (or unwilling) to exercise. During those rhythms of life I feel more lethargic and annoyed. But when I exercise consistently I feel better overall. My energy levels are up, my irritability is decreased, I sleep better, and I am less prone to getting sick. I may not always enjoy the act of exercising, but I love the results it produces.

I exercise to avoid the stereotype. 
Let’s be honest, the overweight Baptist preacher is a pretty accurate stereotype. And so one reason I am motivated to exercise is to avoid being pigeonholed as such.

What about you? What are you reasons for exercising and eating healthy?

[*] John Piper does an excellent job of explaining how exercise helps one spiritually in his blog post "Physical Exercise: What I Do and Why".

1 comment:

  1. Nathan,

    Hi, I tried emailing you at both your church's email and your personal email. I keep getting mailer-daemons though. Is there some other way I can contact you? If you'd like, you can email me at or Thank you so much.